July 7th – today – is the sweetest day of the year because, it is the day that world celebrates chocolate. Yes, chocolate which used to be the dreaded word from our childhood is actually a healthy potion that not just keeps our minds and skin youthful but also helps safeguard our heart and prevents diabetes.
Chocolate’s history is believed to go way back to 1900 BC. The Aztec civilization believed that cacao seeds were a gift of Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom. They used the seeds to prepare a bitter, frothy beverage that also included spices, wine or corn puree. It was very different from today’s super sweet milk chocolate treats but closer to a very minimally processed dark chocolate made from raw cacao.
Though no one will advise you to lunge for the bar of milk chocolate or the bag of Hershey’s Kisses because that’s still the unhealthy cousin that adds tires to your mid-section and puts the dreaded cavities to your teeth. It’s the dark sheep or dark chocolate that has the doctor’s vote – literally.
In 1847 a British chocolate company (JS Fry & Sons) created the first solid edible chocolate bar from three ingredients: cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar. Huge names like Cadbury, Mars and Hershey came into the picture in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The world’s love of chocolate has only continued to grow over the years.
Dark chocolate that is often referred to as a superfood has many benefits. Here are just five from a long list,
Improved Heart Health
Dark chocolate has cocoa butter that contains equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat), stearic and palmitic acids.
According to a research, it was found that just one week of dark chocolate consumption improved lipid profiles and decreased platelet reactivity for both men and women while also reducing inflammation in women.
Better Brain Function
Dark chocolate is among 15 brain foods that boost focus and memory. Research has shown that “acute as well as chronic ingestion of flavanol-rich cocoa is associated with increased blood flow to cerebral gray matter and it has been suggested that cocoa flavanols might be beneficial in conditions with reduced cerebral blood flow, including dementia and stroke.”
Flavonoid-rich dark chocolate also improves cognitive ability, specifically in the elderly. A cross-sectional study of over 2,000 participants ages 70 to 74 years old looked at the relationship between the intake of chocolate, wine and tea (all rich in flavonoids) and cognitive performance. The study concludes that “intake of flavonoid-rich food, including chocolate, wine, and tea, is associated with better performance across several cognitive abilities and that the associations are dose dependent.”
If you bite into a bar of healthy dark chocolate for the first time your taste buds might be a little shocked. The darker the bar, the more bitter it will taste — but the better it will be for your health and waistline. The higher the percentage of cacao in the chocolate the better – aim between 55 to 70%.
Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar Reduction
According to a study published in 2015 subjects with type-2 diabetes consumed 25 grams (a little under one ounce) of dark or white chocolate for eight weeks. The researchers found that not only did dark chocolate lower the blood pressure of the hypertensive diabetics, but it also decreased fasting blood sugar.
So, if you’re diabetic, the higher the cocoa content, which also means the lower the sugar content, the better. It’s also key to note that this was a very small amount of dark chocolate per day at 0.88 ounces.
Better Skin Health
Flavanols from cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it against sun-induced damage while increasing skin density and hydration. Dark chocolate that contains the bioactive compounds is good for human skin.
Before we go, here’s a recipe that’s easy and will help you get over the chocolate craving you are having after reading this post.
— Pick n Pay (@PicknPay) July 7, 2018
And here’s another for a quick craving at breakfast,
A perfect #breakfast to kickstart your Saturday morning – Oats Banana Choco Chip Pancakes..#CookWithRB #WorldChocolateDay #ChocolateDay #SaturdayMotivation#SaturdayBrunch #healthy #chocolate pic.twitter.com/Rk0JUcbdgD
— Ranveer Brar (@ranveerbrar) July 7, 2018
So, what are you waiting for? Get your bar now!